According to the Arthritis Foundation, about 54 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with arthritis, an umbrella term referring to joint pain and joint disease. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, a condition which commonly affects older adults and is caused by the cartilage between joints wearing down over time. When osteoarthritis becomes severe, it can impact mobility and make it painful to do things a person used to enjoy.
However, there are senior-friendly activities that actually help ease the joint pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. For seniors with arthritis, certain hobbies and exercises can be therapeutic, both physically and emotionally. Here are a few activities that are beneficial for older adults with arthritis.
Arts and crafts
Arthritis often causes pain in the hands, fingers, wrists, and elbows, limiting a person’s fine motor skills and making it more challenging to grasp items. One way seniors with arthritis can improve dexterity is by taking up arts and crafts. Activities such as painting, coloring, photography, knitting, ceramics, sculpting, and scrapbooking can be modified for people with arthritis. For example, specialized, ergonomic tools such as comfort-grip paint brushes, knitting needles, or pencils make arts and crafts easier and more comfortable. Engaging in creative activities is also known to help reduce boredom and boost cognitive function among older adults.
Gardening is an activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Planting, watering, and tending to plants is relaxing and meditative, making it a wonderful hobby for older adults dealing with arthritis. Gardening activities can be adapted for those with arthritis by using joint-friendly tools with large handles, gloves with grips, or special cushions for kneeling. If bending down to tend to plants or pull weeds is difficult, bring them to you! Flower beds can be raised to reduce the pain caused by kneeling, and plants like herbs or succulents make easy tabletop container gardens.
Many older adults find preparing meals for family and friends to be a fun, therapeutic activity. Cooking offers nourishment for both body and soul, allowing us to connect with others through the celebration and tradition of eating meals together. The act of stirring, mixing, and measuring ingredients can also help improve flexibility and strength in the hands and wrists of arthritis patients. Plus, trying new recipes is a great way to challenge the brain and expand one’s culinary palate. Unfortunately, for older adults with arthritis, it can become painful to do things like lift groceries or chop vegetables. Try using kitchen utensils with wide, comfort grip handles, or make cooking a more pain-free and social experience by asking friends or family members to help with carrying heavy pots and pans or groceries.
Older adults with arthritis can benefit from trying low-impact physical activities such as aqua exercises. Water provides buoyancy that reduces joint stress and pain. Aquatic workouts often include non-weight bearing strength and walking exercises in heated pools with the added support of flotation vests or belts. Many people find that aqua exercises improve their range of motion and help soothe painful joints. Just remember to consult with your doctor before trying any new exercise program.
Dancing is another low-impact exercise that offers significant health and social benefits for older adults. According to the Arthritis Foundation, older adults who completed a 45-minute dance class twice a week reported less knee and hip pain after a three month period. Not only is dancing a great way to improve balance, strength, and flexibility, but it’s also a fun social activity that positively impacts seniors’ mental and emotional health. Recent studies find that the challenge of learning new dance steps helps older adults improve cognitive function and may reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Arthritis is an increasingly common senior health issue, but it doesn’t need to inhibit older adults’ quality of life. Older adults can still enjoy plenty of fun and engaging activities that help to boost mobility and reduce the pain caused by arthritis.